tv Slave Rebellion of 1841 CSPAN September 6, 2015 7:00pm-7:57pm EDT
please join me in welcoming him to the national archives. [applause] >> good afternoon. for most of us, american history begins with the american revolution and the drafting of the restitution and perhaps make a brief stop at though war of 1812. as a result, that opperiod imagery and was a lack or. in that black hole there took place in rebellion that led the u.s. and british to the brink of another war. i want to tell you this interesting start.
on october 25 eight teen 41 -- october 20 5, 1841, the creole left with tobacco supplies and crew and others. a captain was in charge. he brought his wife and four-year-old daughter and 15 year-old niece with him. he had a crew of 8 and three guests who got free passage to new orleans in exchange for being guards. the creole still down the river to the atlantic ocean. in addition to tobacco and supplies, the creole also carried human cargo. it had slaves on board. they were in the forward cold at night and one third of the slaves who were e-mail in error
-- were -- you arfemale were inr hold. the cook for the slaves with the young slaves whose name was madison washington, remember that name because we will see him again. the creole was about 200 miles northeast of miami. it was nighttime. the ship basically stop. it was dark supper one lantern in the front. -- it was dark with one lantern in the front. another slave jumps with him. one of the guards tried to stop him. other slaves stabbed him more than 20 times and virtually decapitated him and through him
overboard. the captain stabbed him repeatedly almost four dead. -- almost for debt. -- dead. the slaves opened up all of their trunks and got dressed up and ate and broke into the brandy cabinet and drink and had a wonderful time. madison whington ordered a crew to sell to liberia. one of the guards said that he used to be a mate and you had to navigate. he said cut you cannot get to liberia from here. it you don't have enough food or water. in exchange for my life, i could navigate us to the bahamas to nassau. that is said come ok. that is fine. on november 9, the creole
entered the mouth of the channel in nassau about a mile from the city itself. a bohemia pilot came on board to pilot the ship into the harbor. he looked around and told the slaves, we have no slave labor here. you guys are free. on the north side of the harbor was an island. we know it as atlantic resort. huge development. it wasn't then in the harbor master came for a routine inspection. the first mate jumped on board. i have got to see the american counselor officer. you could imagine the emotions that crackled within everybody.
those 19 slaves who had led the default were especially satisfied. they were worried the british might jail them or worse return them to the u.s. the passengers and crew were terrified, but hoped that their nightmare was nearly over. freeze that picture in your mind. let's step back. look at the united states at that time. let's look at u.s. and british relationships. let's look at what the bahamas was like that. first, the u.s. it was a lot smaller than it was today. 26 stars on the american flag.
about half the size of great britain at the time. the economy in the 1830's who people and goods all over the country. the best example was when andrew jackson came to be sworn in as president. he came on a horse-drawn carriage in tennessee. in 1837 after his presidency when he returned to tennessee, he returned on a train pulled by a steam engine. then as so often happens as we know these days, the classic boom and bust cycle kicked in. it was a great recession. thanks failed -- banks failed. states defaulted on their loans. it was required for congress to
pass our first bankruptcy laws. it was a terrible time. a young lawyer in springfield, illinois i just got admitted to the bar and found out his practice was decimated by collection cases. politically by 1820, a division within the u.s. was no longer the state against small state. rather it was free state against slave state. missouri compromise of 1820 had free states and slave states by a admitting the names of the free states and slave states. the revolt in 1831 and the evolution -- abolition of slavery deeply were there -- deeply worried the southern us
-- southernists. in the north there was great agitation to move on. it was found in 1833. united states and the u.k. band the international slave trade from africa here in 1808. this created a massive distribution of slaves within the u.s. they moved from the upper southeast delaware, maryland, virginia down to the new best lands in the southwest to mississippi alabama. the price was determined by the price of the slaves in new orleans. typically the slaves in delaware , maryland, virginia, etc. were sold in the fall after the
harvest and they percent around to new orleans so they would arrive in new orleans in the spring in time to work the planting. it is no accident then that the third-largest city in the u.s. was new orleans after new york and baltimore. let's talk about the presidents the. martin van buren was president. he had a great resume. he was off to a good start. the economy is stupid. and the great panic of 1837 continued. it was a horrible time to be president. they selected a war hero from ohio as its presidential nominee
william henry harrison famous for winning a battle. he was a southerner to balance the ticket. they had john tyler. the election of 1840 was a first modern political campaign. political slogans were used for the first time. van buren was the democrat from new york. ok clubs were formed. that is how the term okay came into our national vocabulary. harrison won a huge majority in the electoral college and became president. resident harrison had six cabinet members against 15 cabinet members today. the senior member was daniel
a president had never died in office. he began to be viewed with suspicion by weeks in congress -- by wigs in congress. on one saturday, five of the wig cabinet members walked into the white house and each one of them left one hour after the other and resigned. daniel webster stayed. tyler wanted to stay because he needed webster to help him with battles in congress. he was also worried about relations with great written.
tyler was an anglo folk. he know that webster was an anglo file -- anglophile. the great financial house dominated european and american finances for years. daniel webster was the american lawyer for them. in congress at that time, pressure was building and building. the democrats controlled the house and adopted what was called the gag rule. automatic tabling of any petition that relates to slavery in any way. the leader against the gag rule was john, former president of
the united states. he fought against the gag rule. it was still in place in 1841-nigh1842. in 1839 african slaves violently revolted on a spanish slave trip off of cuba. you all know the amistad movie, the spielberg movie. those freed slaves ended up in the u.s. the supreme court had to decide the fate of those slaves. the case was argued in february, 1841. john quincy adams, the former president and now house member, argued the case for the slaves. it was his fifth and last appearance before the supreme court. in the movie, anthony hopkins played john quincy adams.
in march -- that's the gag rule. i'm sorry. in march 1841, the opinion of the court freed the slaves. the amistad case did not involve the u.s. the slaves were freed before they came to the u.s. it was a spanish ship, etc. it was important for us in this discussion. it focused national attention on slavery and the mutinous result -- revolt on the slave ship like with what happened with the creole. let's talk about british-u.s. relationships. great britain was the superpower of the world. for example, great britain had 100 ships.
the united states had 15. great britain had colonies and canada -- in canada, australia, new zealand. they had trading centers in hong kong and singapore. the fog and's big -- falkins became a colony. in 1839, the british invaded afghanistan. they came with more than 20,000 troops. they had 30,000 tamils to carry their supplies, including 300 cases of wine for the officers -- camels to carry their supplies, including 300 cases of wine for the officers. but the spanish were defeated. it was the jihad against the british.
-- but the english were defeated. it was the jihad against the british. they were massacred as they retreated from kabul in january of 1842. this is important. the u.s. saw the united kingdom as the center of evill. -- evil. fostering abolition. trying to cut cotton prices by having a relationship with that independent texas come a great cotton producer. the south thought they want to destroy the american economy. remember the war of 1812. it was only a generation away when a british admiral burned washington and every household in america remembered it. look at your license plates. war of 1812. there were four specific problems in the u.s.-british
relationships. first in 1837 there was a rebellion in canada. some americans went north to help the rebels. at the end of 1837, british militia crossed the niagara and learned the american merchant ship had pushed her over the niagara falls. americans called for war against great britain. how could they do this to us read the british said, self-defense. you americans crossed the line and came up. we are ok doing that. the second problem was three years later. a deputy sheriff from canada was named the cloud was passing
through new york state and stupidly he starts bragging about his role in burning the caroline and pushing it over the falls. not surprisingly, new york state authorities arrested mcleod and tried him for murder. the british said he has no personal responsibility. he was part of our militia. he was involved, but you cannot go after him personally when it is a british to vinny. he was following -- british activity. he was following orders. if mcleod is found guilty, there will be war. and of story. fortunately in october a month before the creole entered at nassau, a jury in new york said mcleod was not guilty. phew. but nerves were still tense. the third problem related to the
canadian border, there was a compromise in 1820. the main border with canada was never fully defined. there were skirmishes. other states passed resolutions. it was sort of a ballroom brawl. the last major problem related to the naval presence off the closed of africa. both the british and the americans had naval patrols off the coast of africa to interdict .
freely boarded american ships to see if they were really american or pirates who just raised an american flag. for american to fight in the war of 1812, this was a serious problem. there are also lots of new faces between the two countries with respect to the two countries in 1841. in the u k, there was a new prime minister and the new foreign secretary. in the u.s., we had the third american president. a new secretary of state. a new ambassador the great written -- great britain. later became president of harvard university. a much later gave that great to our address -- two hour address
just before lincoln gave his gettysburg address. everyone was new on both sides of the aisle. there were no personal relationships to smooth over the rough patches and to ease relationships. on the other hand, everything was new and right for a reset. just before the creole sales from richmond heading south to the atlantic, a 29-year-old charles dickens who is the most popular writer in the english world, i think i will visit the united states. let's look briefly the british bahamas.
when the british navy caught illegal slave ships after the banning of the international slave trade, they would bring them to the nearest british port and free africans who had captured the slaves. many of those were brought to the bahamas in nassau. those free africans once they stepped on british soil retained their african languages, culture, religion. they lived in ethnic groups largely from africa. etc. in 1834, britain gradually abolished slavery the most of their colonies, including the bahamas. by 1838, all of the slaves in
the bahamas were freed. putting all of this together, when the creole entered the harbor, your perfect storm. you had severe u.s.-british tensions. you had a new president of uncertain status. they called him, your excellency. congress was all twisted with the gag rule and anything related to slavery was a tough sell. in nassau, huge percentage of the population were recently freed african and local slaves. let's go back to november 9, 1841 in nassau. the first mate ran to the u.s. counselor officer. john bacon. reported what happened on the ship. murder.
slaves rebelled. sliced his head off. they can went to see -- bacon went to see the general of the bahamas. sir francis was a young british army captain who had fought against the u.s. in canada during the war of 1812. it was his older brother admiral sir george who would authorize the burning of the white house in 1814. needless to say, he did not have affection for the united states. the u.s. council asked them to prevent the slaves from getting on shore. they are american property. take the 19 murderers in them in jail until the deal with them.
the governor was noncommittal. he set a regiment of west indian soldiers and two magistrates on board the creole. pretty soon the soldiers took the 19 off and put them in jail. from hogs island became a huge italian of boats -- the chilean of boats that surrounded the -- and many boat surrounded the creole. they vanished. all 135 slaves except five left to stand board. he was counselor -- the officer demanded the return of 19 slaves
, but all the other slaves had vanished. on november 19, the creole sailed without it slaves to new orleans and without the captain who severely injured. he had to stay in nassau for a while. grosvenor coburn sought he lp. it took a little while. at the end of january, the 19 slaves charged with murder could be charged with murder. but since they are not british and your ship is in british and the murder didn't play -- take place in british waters, they can't be tried in a british court. the u.s. could try these guys come up at the u.s. has no extradition treaty with great written.
we can't -- great britain. we cannot turn them over. the british freed the slaves who were held in jail and they vanished. creole arrived in new orleans on november 2. needless to say, the city was in virtual flames over this. the louisiana senator demanded war against great britain. for taking all of this american property and so on. the south carolina senator said this is the most outrageous action. we must go to war against great britain. in congress, john quincy adams wrote a petition that war with britain over the creole would be unjust.
a petition to censor quincy adams was filed to but failed. a young congressman from ohio, joshua giddings, joshua. he proposed a resolution dealing with the creole issue. very clever. he has a long resolution. there is no federal slavery. you could hit them saying, good for you. it is a state matter. state rights. but when a ship leaves a state and goes into international waters of the atlantic for example, the persons on board are no longer subject to slave laws of that state.
when the creole left virginia, virginia had no more jurisdiction over those slaves and the persons on board were simply returned to their natural rights. he was very clever. he was making an attack using the creole as an example. the biggest thing in slavery was moving this mass redistribution of slaves from the upper south around to the southwest. he was going after that. it is a short fuse for everybody. the next day, the house of representatives voted overwhelmingly for money to censor john. he got out of his desk at the house floor and walked down to
john quincy adams desk, shook his hand, and left the house. he said goodbye formally to the speaker, etc. he went back to ohio. within weeks, he was overwhelmingly reelected and came back to congress. [laughter] quite a story. in may, word reached washington that the british had freed those murderous slaves from jail and the south went desert. -- berserk. i mentioned charles dickens. he visited the u.s. he landed in boston. this was a rock star at the time. he had dinners with everybody. every famous person. in new york he met with then president van buren.
in philadelphia he met with edgar allen poe. he can to washington in march and was invited for private dinners at the white house. he met with congress. calhoun. adams. everyone else. washington irving wearied you is about to head south. his plan was to start in boston and head south. henry clay took him aside and said, over this creole thing, the south hates the british. i don't think it would be safe for you to go down there. charles dickens got the message and went west. if you read his book that he wrote about this period of the american notes, it is of his time in the north and the west. he only praised in his book two americans, john quincy adams and joshua giddings. ok.
we had this mess. andrew diplomacy. -- enter diplomacy. the prime interest or mates very young queen elizabeth -- the prime minister meets a very young queen elizabeth. a war with the united states is on the horizon. she said, oh my gosh. what can we do? remember afghanistan and the death of the british? the prime minister said, i have an idea. i propose a special mission. i think you'll want to nominate alexander bearing of the baring brothers to come to the u.s. and represent with full powers to do whatever he wants to settle all of these issues with borders and everything else. she said, that is a good deal. we will do it.
alexander bearing and daniel webster -- was invited to balls. met the queen, etc. he arrived in annapolis in early april. the queen wanted him to deliver the message that this is great britain that stupid americans were dealing with. she wanted to emphasize its strength. she sent him on a ship that was so large it needed a crew of 500 to manage it. the americans got the message. you brought servants, carriages, horses, wine, you name it. they asked webster, help me with housing. where should i live? daniel webster who lives at
lafayette park, a space that is now the u.s. chambers of commerce said, there is a brand-new wonderful house. you ought to lease that. that is not the parry house -- now the parry house. ashburton house. it was convened -- convenient. it was about 50 feet from dolly madison's house. she was a first lady who had escaped the white house after the british burned it. ashburton and webster negotiated and negotiated. they had lavish dinners at the ashburton house. by the end of june, ashburton wrote to lord aberdeen that this problem of the creole unless we
resolve it somehow is going to sink all of these other issues that we have to deal with. finally webster and ashburton put together a treaty form over the issues except the creole. they agreed, ashburton, webster, president tyler used secret funds, money to soften up people to agree to a new border. they settled the border that was in a treaty. on the issue with the right to search american vessels off the african coast for slavers, and nice resolution. joint patrols. one doesn't have to bore the other. -- board the other. they agreed to neck tradition treaty.
webster tried to get a provision -- they agreed to a treaty. webster tried to get a provision, but ashburton was too smart. i know you are talking about the creole. we want do that. they exchange notes about the carolina fair going over niagara falls -- caroline affair going over niagara falls. all of the tough issues got settled except for the creole affair. could you imagine webster and ashburton in this kind of weather without air-conditioning and trying to deal with this? finally they agreed on an exchange of notes. there was a long lawyers brief.
i understand you're not hard to deal with the creole issue. twice he used the term interference. that was governor coburn's activities. he stressed the importance of u.k.-u.s. trade, etc. he asked lord ashburton, united governments policies. surely you could give instructions that there'll be no british conduct that will be out of conformity with the american government. ashburton responded on august 6 and said i'm not impart to deal with this creole matter.
in structure and shall be given to the governors and the colonies on the southern borders of the u.s. that there shall be no vicious interference with american vessels driven there by accident or violence. today we call this constructive ambiguity. that is a famous term that henry kissinger used. the logjam was broken. it settled the boundary and extradition and all of these things. it was sent up to the senate for ratification. it was ratified on a saturday immediately with the largest majority of any senate ratification of a treaty until then. it is all done. one was an insurance case. the creole arrived in portland
in december 1841. slaveowners who had been smart enough as had been the practice to take out insurance on the property, everyone has property insurance. they filed claims against their insurance companies for compensation. in the lower courts, the slave owners one, but the insurance owners appealed. the lawyer for the insurance companies was a young louisiana lawyer. i will come to back -- i will come back to him if we have time. he was a lawyer for the insurance companies. he began by checking the slave owners. the creole was an seaworthy. it's crew was an armed. -- was not seaworthy. it's crew was not armed. it is your fault.
there was an insurrection by the slaves. the decision came out in 1845. the court said that the slave insurrection caused the loss. there for the insurance companies were not liable. the slave owners were not compensated for their loss. the second epilogue is an alteration that took place in london in january 1885. the u.s. and london had a treaty to settle all claims between their two countries. it decided that the creole have a right to seek help if it was in distress.
the british had an obligation to keep the slaves until they could be sent to the u.s. and an obligation to protect or save the other slaves. there for the u.k. violated international law. the medicaid of had to pay the united states about -- the united kingdom had to pay the united states per slave to the american slave owners. that is about $20,000 per slave in today's terms. the last epilogue is a book. i'm sorry. will talk about that if we have time. harriet beecher stowe wrote "uncle tom's cabin."
and remember "12 years a slave" which won best picture. this was his only work of fiction. if it had been set to music, it would have been the opera. it was dramatic. it is mostly the back story of madison washington that he made up. it deals with washington's escape from slavery in virginia. he makes it to ohio where a white family helps him. helps to move on to canada and to freedom. he returned to virginia -- he returned to virginia and he is caught and he is put on the creole and personally sales into nassau harbor and wins. the message was virginia was great for the revolution.
it had great ideals, but that virginia is dying. the new state with proper ideals is ohio. it happened to be the home of harriet beecher stowe and joshua giddings. his other message was to the slaves, right is on your side and your leaders worthy to washington is a worthy leader. help slaves lead them to freedom. whatever happened to madison washington? in april 1842 when he stepped out of jail into nassau, he stepped out of history. we have no idea what happened to him. let me take one other moment. i had in remiss in failing to
express appreciation for the national archives. they found for me the manifest. it is in the book. the manifest of the creole. it shows madison washington at age 25 and 5'9", etc. they have done a remarkable is job in trying to things together. that is the story. inc. you for listening. -- thank you for listening. [applause] i welcome any questions you please move to the microphones i'm told. while waiting, i will show -- or i guess i'm not going to show.
[laughter] >> thank you very much. for the 19, there was a gun in the book. it sounds like there was some type of investigation that was done to find that there were 19. there was a gun. people had to be interviewed on both sides i assume. anything that you can talk about from that perspective and what that might have led to because slavery was still in place to prevent something like this from happening again? >> sure. there was a gun and there were knives. officer and crew have some weapons on board. they misfired, etc. somehow the state had smuggled on some weapons. in the frederick douglass book, his white friend from ohio meet
him just before he gets on the creole with three knives. we don't know how the slaves acquired weapons. they overpowered the crew immediately. after the settlement with the british, there were no more incidents like this. i'm sure that the maritime authorities and the slavers, the slave owners made sure that all of the slaves were checked before they got on board and there might have been armed guards that paid attention. there were no more incidents like this. >> when you attended law school, was this case covered? or is it something that you researched on your own? >> no.
this is barely covered you could ask historians of that period. what you know about the creole? it is an amazing story. it is not sought anywhere. i should add for the investigation, when then british authorities came on board in nassau, some said it was magistrates. the interviewed everyone on board. it was their report from interviewing the slaves and officers and the crew and so on that they noted down to these 19. two died in prison from natural causes. in the end 17 were freed. and then for the insurance case in louisiana, all kinds of
authorities came to louisiana for the discussion. the counselor officer came to new orleans. everyone was testifying what happened. the facts were not clear. the were two different stories. the awful british let the guys go. it is terrible. the ship officer included at want to sail back with all of -- the ships officer and crew did not want to sell that with all of these slaves. they were afraid of getting killed. there is a great discrepancy on what happened. >> in the arbitration -- >> perhaps i could repeat the question. there you are. i'm sorry. >> in 1855 arbitration where the british were ordered to pay,
they in fact pay that compensations they were ordered? >> yes. it was a three-member team, which is typical for claims settlement negotiation. the umpire was the deciding guy and lived in london. guess who he worked for? the baring brothers. he was a commercial guy. i think that probably influenced him a little bit. you don't want funny things like this to happen. you want order and predictability. yes, they paid. there was a subsequent dispute that ended up in the u.s. supreme court. the slave owners had hired
washington lobbyists to prosecute the claim with the british. they wanted a piece of the settlement that the british made. it was ridiculous. >> thank you very much or that lovely speech. reminds me of abraham lincoln's time when the almost came to war appeared to confederates were captured off the coast of cuba. lincoln gave his secretary of state the opportunity -- lincoln said i cannot have two wars at one time.
>> thank you. the most interesting part is that the key confederate was captured on the trent as it was heading for england. he happened to be the law partner in new orleans. ironically you have that linkage . he went on to be a u.s. senator and then was a senior officer in the confederacy. his picture was on the confederate two dollar bill. he was a confederate secretary of war and attorney general. when the civil war ended, he
went south and got out and made his way to nassau and made his way to liverpool and the united kingdom he became the most successful english lawyer in english history. he wrote a famous book, a logbook on sales. if you ask a british solicitor today, benjamin on sales, sure, every law student reads him. but nobody knows that he was an american who represented the slave owners, the insurance companies in the louisiana case and was the law partner was caught in the trent affair. thank you. any other questions? thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
visit ncicap.org] >> don't forget there is a book signing one level up in the archives bookstore. see you up there in a couple of minutes. >> you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. join the conversation. like us on facebook. >> each week, american history tvs reel america brings you archival films that help provide contact to public affairs issues. in 1958 national education association film that addresses the problem of overcrowded schools as a result of the post-world war ii baby boom. the program begins with the frustrated teacher writing her frustrated teacher writing her resignation